Last week was Lost week, with May 23rd marking the one year anniversary of the series finale of the television phenomenon. You might not have liked how it ended, or even stuck with the show through all six seasons, but no one can deny the tremendous, revolutionizing effect that Lost had on television drama, and how influential it has been in pop culture.
To celebrate the occasion, I want to dedicate my first column to Lost – my favorite TV show of all time (with the possible exception of Buffy). Instead of writing a long essay about how much the show has affected my life and blah blah, I have put together a list of my top 5 episodes of all time. As it turns out… not an easy task!
Now, there are so many directions you could take this list in. The best mythology episodes, the best character episodes, the most classic Lost episodes… ultimately though, I’ve tried to mix it up, and I’ve also tried to pick some episodes that aren’t necessarily obvious choices for a top 5 list. Feel free to disagree in the comments! I’m sure I’ve missed your favorite – seeing as I decided to spice things up and leave ‘The Constant’ off the list. Dun dun dunnn.
Honorable mentions: ‘The Man From Tallahassee,’ ‘The Moth,’ ‘Jughead,’ ‘The Shape of Things to Come,’ ‘Exodus Parts 2 & 3’. (Oh look what I did – now it’s a top 10!)
5. ‘The Incident’ (5×16/5×17)
Written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, directed by Jack Bender. Multi/Jacob-centric.
One of the things Lost did best was undeniably season finales. In fact, the only finale that didn’t make my jaw drop and my tears flow was ‘Live Together, Die Alone’ in season 2, and I think I’m in the minority there. I felt I needed to have a finale on this list, and after much deliberation I went with ‘The Incident.’ I thought about ‘Exodus,’ too, but I already have two episodes from season 1 on here, and the later seasons needed some love, too. Also, ‘The Incident’ is one of the best examples in Lost of a multi-centric episode, which shows us how each Candidate was selected (some as children, like Sawyer and Kate, others as adults) by Jacob – who we meet for the first time in this episode! On the island in 1977, Jack is about to detonate the hydrogen bomb, desperate to change the characters’ future and save the people that have died on the island – and what makes this even more powerful is that when season 6 opens, we are led to believe that it worked. Juliet is pulled down into the hole where Jack tossed the bomb (so full of faith and so sure that it would work), and though it didn’t technically happen till ‘LA X,’ Juliet dying is probably the single most upsetting, tragic Lost death, bar Jin and Sun. In this episode, Jack and Sawyer also come to blows, which was a long time coming; we are reunited with the now “retired” Rose and Bernard, and of course Ben kills Jacob, and Locke is revealed to be the Man in Black. So exciting!
Best moment: Aside from the great character moments and the romantic nods to Jack/Kate and Juliet/Sawyer, there really were two scenes in this episode that in a perfect world would go down in history as some of the best drama on television. The first being the opening scene which shows us Jacob and Man in Black for the first time, and is a classic Lost OMG-moment when we realize who we are looking at. The second scene is the finale’s final moment in which Juliet, broken and bleeding, uses her last bit of strength to hammer on the bomb until the screen explodes in a white light, leading into a polarized “LOST” title card.
Man in Black: Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you?
Man in Black: One of these days, sooner or later, I’m going to find a loophole, my friend.
Sawyer: Why are you doing this, Juliet?
Juliet: If I never meet you, then I never have to lose you.
4. ‘The Other 48 Days’ (2×07)
Written by Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, directed by Eric Laneuville. Tailie-centric.
What I love about ‘The Other 48 Days’ is how it completely breaks style – which is hard to do in a show that tackles a different genre every episode – by moving from “our” characters to a group of what is practically strangers to the audience. We were told in season 1 that there were other survivors from Flight 815, in the season finale we met Ana Lucia and saw how close Jack was to taking her place, and in season 2 they were introduced as violent savages who captured Jin, Michael and Sawyer (“Udders! Udders!”). But now, we are getting their entire, tragic story, and it’s a real twilight zone episode where we take a step back from the troubles our characters are facing and say phew, at least they weren’t in the tail section! Because these guys have it really tough. They are systematically attacked by the Others, and their numbers dwindle eerily fast, until it’s only a small group of survivors roughing it up in the jungle, fighting traitors and mutiny along the way. Ana Lucia is the Tailies’ version of Jack, but an inverted character of sorts: where Jack is a doctor and doesn’t initially want to lead anyone, Ana is a cop and immediately takes control. Eko is their Locke, but he is violent and silent – though in some ways more honest. This episode is suspenseful and disjointed, with title cards counting down to the present day (‘Abandoned,’ in which Ana shoots Shannon) when the two camps collide and we finally understand what has led Ana Lucia and her group to behave the way they do. A lot of people didn’t like the Tailies when they were first brought in, but personally I liked the change of pace they brought to the story, and the contrast that was created between the Losties whose story we’d been following, and the “other” group. Another reason I liked this episode was because it was pure island story, with no off-island flashbacks. That makes it more fun to rewatch!
Best moment: When Ana finally breaks down and cries. Complete with the Michael Giacchino-composed score, ‘Ana Cries.’ Also, when Ana Lucia and Goodwin talk, right before she kills him. It’s deliciously tense, and Goodwin reveals a lot about the nature of the enigmatic Others: they judge people as “good” or “bad” and take the ones they want, and as we later learn, Goodwin lobbied hard for Ana, who wasn’t supposed to be one of the good ones.
Ana Lucia: What, you talking now?
Eko: It’s been forty days.
Ana Lucia: You’ve been waiting forty days to talk?
Eko: You waited forty days to cry.
Ana Lucia: Did you kill him?
Goodwin: Nathan was not a good person. That’s why he wasn’t on the list.
3. ‘Flashes Before Your Eyes’ (3×08)
Written by Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard, directed by Jack Bender. Desmond-centric.
See, here’s the thing: I’ve always been a fan of Desmond and his flash-whatever-they-weres, but I think ‘The Constant’ is hugely overrated. Aside from the final scene, which was amazing, the episode was very confusing and there was quite a bit of throwaway plot about Desmond running around on a boat with a nose bleed. Personally, I think ‘Flashes’ was a far more solid episode, and much more iconic and significant in the larger scheme of things. This episode marks the first time Lost does any kind of time jumping, it introduces Eloise Hawking, and expands on Desmond’s premonitions. Desmond waking up after the Hatch detonation covered in paint, the creation of the Desmond/Penny photo as well as the engagement ring sinking down into the water are some of the most memorable images in the history of the show, and the final, shell-shocking revelation that fan favorite Charlie was destined to die was game changing. Instead of once again wondering which character would die this year, the audience was instead left to wonder when and if Charlie would die. Which he did. And sad as it was, it was still the ultimate storyline payoff. The Desmond/Penny scenes in this episode were great, and to this day I’m still left wondering how much of this was real, and how much Desmond re-constructed in his mind… It’s close to a perfect episode, this one, with very few insignificant moments.
Best moment: So many! Desmond meeting Charlie and predicting the rain, that was chilling! There’s also the Eloise Hawking scene on the bench, when she talks about the inevitability of fate, which would set the tone for the entire rest of the series… and of course we can’t forget that infamous MacCutcheon whiskey scene with Charles Widmore.
Desmond: Why do you love me?
Penny: Because you’re a good man. In my experience they’re pretty hard to come by.
Ms. Hawking: The universe, unfortunately, has a way of course-correcting. That man was supposed to die; that was his path. Just as it’s your path to go to the island. You don’t do it because you choose to, Desmond. You do it because you’re supposed to.
Widmore: What you’re not, is worthy of drinking my whiskey. How could you ever be worthy of my daughter?
2. ‘The Pilot, Part 1’ (1×01)
Written by J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, directed by J.J. Abrams. Jack-centric.
This is probably, everything taken into consideration, the best episode of the show. But I feel it has an unfair advantage: ‘The Pilot’ episode of Lost had the budget of a cinematic feature, and was produced over a significant length of time. Compare that to, say, the Buffy or Supernatural pilots and it’s a very different story. Some say that the show went downhill ever since its first episode, but while I love every single moment of the pilot, I disagree. I was one of the people that stuck with the show till ‘The End,’ not because of what it used to be but because of what it developed into. Still, ‘The Pilot’ deserves a high place on this Top 5 list, if for nothing else then because it is the episode I have re-watched the most times, and the only episode except ‘Exodus’ which I believe I’ll never get tired of. ‘The Pilot’’s strength (besides from being one of the only pilot episodes in television history entitled ‘The Pilot’ where that title is actually relevant to the plot) is that we are briefly introduced to a lot of characters, but the glimpses we get into who they are speak of everything that is to come (at least everything the writers knew at this point). When we first meet Kate, we don’t know that she’s a criminal with a heart of gold who killed her father and has a chronic “running away problem,” and heck, the actress doesn’t even know it, but the character does. The acting from the entire cast is mindblowing all through the first season, and the characters are simultaneously complete mysteries and so fully realized. So much character and romance groundwork is laid in just these first 40 minutes, the cinematography and music is amazing, and the initial monster mystery might be the show’s best one ever.
Best moment: If I was wearing a hat, I’d take it off for Evangeline Lilly, who delivered one of the most powerful performances on the small screen I’ve ever seen, when she was running from the monster in the jungle and counted down from five to make herself less scared. Lilly took a lot of heat over the years for her character’s ambiguous romantic attachments, but I’ve always maintained that as an actress, she was outstanding from start to finish, and managed to portray the duality of the character (and thus her conflicted feelings for Jack and Sawyer, the two parts of herself) perfectly. And of course, Locke eating the orange Godfather-style: best ease of tension ever.
Jack: So I just made a choice. I’d let the fear in. Let it take over, let it do its thing. But only for five seconds, that’s all I was gonna give it. So I started to count: 1… 2… 3… 4… 5. And it was gone. I went back to work, sewed her up, and she was fine.
Kate: If that had been me, I think I would’ve run for the door.
Jack: No, I don’t think that’s true. You’re not running now.
Charlie : (to Kate) I heard you yell. I heard you yell, ‘Jack’. I’m Charlie, by the way.
1. ‘Walkabout’ (1×04)
Written by David Fury, directed by Jack Bender. Locke-centric.
“Don’t tell me what I can’t put on my Top 5 List!” The funny thing about ‘Walkabout’ having the top spot is that in my first draft of this, I’d bumped the episode off the list completely for ‘The Man From Tallahassee.’ My main argument there was that I had too many season 1 episodes on the list, and that ‘TMFT’ answered why Locke was in a wheelchair. But then I thought, sure, but what trumps that? Finding out that Locke was in a wheelchair! And that moment, more than any other, was what made Lost a must-watch show, and set it apart from other television dramas. Locke is definitely up there as one of my favorite characters, and Terry O’Quinn is just an incredibly talented actor. I’ve watched this episode with a lot of different people who were seeing it for the first time, and though it seems obvious now that Locke was paralyzed in the flashbacks, not a single person I’ve seen it with picked up on it. No matter how many times I watch it, the episode is still so incredibly powerful: here’s this awesome guy who Boone assumes is in the army, yet back home he works at a box company, trying to have a relationship with a sex line employee and trying to fulfill his life dream of going on a walkabout only to be turned away. The other star of this episode is Michael Giacchino, who produced beautiful music to the show, and whose haunting ‘Locked Out Again’ score only makes the episode ten times better. Whenever I think of Lost, my mind immediately goes to ‘Walkabout,’ and it’s the one episode about which I’ve never heard a bad word from anyone. It just doesn’t get better than this.
Best moment: When Locke is told he can’t go on the walkabout and the bus drives away, leaving him in his wheelchair. And then when Claire is holding the memorial service at the end, Locke looks at his wheelchair and smiles… he’s found his destiny.
Locke: Don’t you walk away from me! You don’t know who you’re dealing with! Don’t ever tell me what I can’t do, ever! This is destiny. This is destiny. This is… this is my destiny. This… I’m supposed to do this, dammit! Don’t tell me what I can’t do!
Jack: (after Locke throws a knife at Sawyer) You either have very good aim… or very bad aim.
So there you have it, my top 5 Lost episodes! I struggled with this list for days, and I had maybe 15 episodes that I kept changing out at random, completely unable to decide. How do you leave episodes like ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ and ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’ off a respectable Lost list?? And what about ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and ‘Ab Aeterno!’ And others might say, how dare you leave off ‘The End’ or ‘The Constant’! I know at least one person who’d complain about the absence of ‘Hunting Party,’ too… but I reckon that’s just the one person, there. Truth is, Lost is an extremely subjective show because whatever episode is ‘best’ for you will depend on what characters, storylines, relationships, mysteries and time periods you like the best. I arrived at a list that I feel fairly confident won’t keep me up at night, but there were plenty of episodes it pained me to leave out. Just goes to show what an incredible six years the show gave us – and today, one year later, I still haven’t “let go”… Time to dust off those old DVDs in time for a summer rewatch, I think!
Do you agree/disagree with my choices? Share your own list in the comments!
Screencaps from: Lost-Media.com